A friend of mine from college just died. He died from a gas leak in his home. Apparently some gas had escaped which killed him and sickened others. He was the only one who didn’t make it. This was a sad and needless death.
This was not an isolated incident. I wish it were.
When I told the story about my friend’s death to an acquaintance, she relayed a story about a family who is now brain damaged from exposure to carbon monoxide in their home.
This is serious stuff.
If you do one maintenance item for your home this year, have your furnace inspected.
If you buy one thing for your home, make it a carbon monoxide detector. Hardware stores are a good place to find the detectors.
Some important tips for buying and installing a detector:
- When buying a CO detector, check for the UL approved label.
- Digital display models show the CO level, rather than simply beeping.
- Install CO detectors in a central area on every floor and near sleeping areas.
- Detectors should be placed at least five feet above the ground, as CO rises.
- Hard-wired and plug-in models won’t work during a power outage.
- Like smoke detectors, batteries need to be replaced each year.
- CO detectors lose sensitivity over time and should be replaced every five years.
Source: Consumer Report 2005
How can I prevent CO poisoning from my home appliances?
- Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters (catalytic) indoors. Although these heaters don’t have a flame, they burn gas and can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
- If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator’s cooling unit have an expert service it. An odor from the cooling unit of your gas refrigerator can mean you have a defect in the cooling unit. It could also be giving off CO.
- When purchasing gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as the American Gas Association or Underwriters’ Laboratories.
- Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
How do I vent my gas appliances properly?
- All gas appliances must be vented so that CO will not build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
- Never burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
- Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.
- Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else. This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
- Horizontal vent pipes to fuel appliances should not be perfectly level. Indoor vent pipes should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors. This helps prevent CO or other gases from leaking if the joints or pipes aren’t fitted tightly.
There are more useful tips on the CDC website for times when the electricity is out, as an example.
Soon, in Washington State homes will be required to have a carbon monoxide detector, but don’t wait until then. You could be playing with your life.